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One bite at a time together: eat locally (project 43)

Slowly but surely, I’m working through Tsh’s ebook One Bite at a Time and chronicling my adventures here.  As you can see from this month’s installment, we are an average American family who needs to fine tune and tweak ever so gradually, or else we’ll give up entirely.

Several months ago, I decided to take advantage of the agriculturally rich area we live in, and shop the local Farmer’s Market.  My kids got used to heading out on Wednesday afternoons and indulging in a churro and all the sweet strawberries and orange slices they were allowed to sample from the farmers.

Although I was enjoying this exercise in eating locally, I was always still reaching for the familiar.I saw tables covered with a rainbow of produce, but I just wasn’t brave enough to buy it.  After all, I wasn’t even sure what it was called, much less how to cook with it.

Fast forward a few months when one of the (fairly large) local farms started a CSA (that’s Community Supported Agriculture).  It seemed like everyone I knew was doing it.  But I was scared.

You see, we aren’t big veggie eaters.  I mean, sure, I can steam a head of broccoli and we can grill a mean ear of corn…but a leek?  I don’t even know what a leek looks like…but it certainly doesn’t sound very good. And I was pretty sure there would be leeks in our CSA box.  Also, beets terrified me.  I didn’t want beets in my house.

After a couple of months of hemming and hawing, I finally took the plunge and joined, and I’m SO GLAD we did. Here are my top five reasons for joining a CSA (and why you should consider joining one too!):

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1.  We eat homemade foods more often.

Now that I have fresh produce in my fridge at all times…and knowing that a new giant box will be arriving again the following week, I am forced to cook more often.

Those days when I would shrug and text my husband to bring home Chinese food are fewer and farther between…after all, we’ve paid for food and if I don’t cook it up, it’s going to spoil!

Not only is my family eating more fruits and vegetables, they’re also eating a lot less fast food.  (We have the option to get the boxes bi-weekly, but I felt like that was too much of an excuse for me to not go all out in this experiment…and I’m glad for the motivation/push of a new shipment every 7 days.)

2.  It forces me out of my comfort zone.

In some ways, this can be seen as a bad thing.  After all, I’m often searching the web for recipes, rather than whipping together the old tried and true foods we typically eat.

While this adds some time to my day, it’s a good use of time.  Potato Leek Soup is a new favorite, and with the help of this book, I’m adding so many different meals to our standard repertoire.   It feels really good and has added some of the fun back into cooking!

3.  It saves us money.

The thought of spending $25 per week on produce seemed like a lot to me.  I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the idea of spending a cool $100 on vegetables every month.  Could we really afford it?

At first, I reminded myself of that saying that goes something like “but it’s cheaper than medical bills”…but even beyond the fact that we are eating more fresh produce, we are eating out less AND there are significantly fewer “hey, can you run by the store and grab…” phone calls.

Now, I have everything I need to put together a meal.  The problem with those quick trips to the store midweek is that a box of cookies, a bottle of wine, or cheese and crackers seemed to always magically appear in the cart too.  And it adds up.  More than I ever realized.

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4.  We’ve started juicing, too!

Even with the help of cookbooks and the web, there were some things I was having a hard time getting through before the next box showed up.  My husband and I had both heard so many great things about juicing, so we figured we’d give it a go.

I bought a juicer (I know, I know…all of you juicing enthusiasts will tell me it’s not a good juicer…look, I just wanted to see if I could even stomach the stuff before I bought something more expensive), and while I’m still working through drinking it without gagging (it just looks like duck poop water to me)…my husband and my five year old (!) are loving it.

5.  It just feels good.

There’s something fun about getting a box of fresh produce every week that you know came from just over the hill.  The kids are always so excited to see what came this week, and I love knowing we are directly supporting a local family (whom we happen to know) while feeding our bodies some fantastic nutrients.  It’s like the healthy person’s warm fuzzies.

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6.  I found out I like carrots.

I know I said five things, but I just remembered this one.  I cannot STAND carrots.  Not cooked, not raw, not peeled, not shredded, not anything.  I do not like them Sam I am.  Except that now I looooove the carrots we get from the CSA.  They are deliciously sweet little morsels of goodness and I eat them like candy.  Who knew?!

Have you ever considered joining a CSA? If you are in a CSA now, what is your favorite part about it? If you haven’t done one, why not? Are you working through One Bite at a Time? You should!

Reading Time:

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    • monique

      Ha! You sound like me. I’m good for about an hour myself. Except this one time in college when my roommate and I gave up pork for Lent. And then promptly ordered a pepperoni pizza from Papa John’s. It wasn’t until we were more than 1/2 way done before we realized what we just did. We didn’t stop eating (no poor college kid stops eating perfectly good pizza she just paid for), but we realized our error. Now that I think about it, though, it probably WAS an hour before we started eating the pizza…

  1. breeann

    I’ve been a member of a CSA since 2006. It was one of my “do something new this year” projects. After about a six-month culture shock (so much lettuce! so much Swiss chard!), I settled into it and have loved getting a box of veggies and fruits every week ever since. The $25/week price is actually cheaper than if I bought the equivalent amount of organic, local produce in a grocery store or at the market (at least in Southern California). And I love getting a variety of selection, including those things that push me out of my comfort zone (purslane, anyone?). Because of the sometimes glut of in-season produce, I’ve also learned how to can, ferment, and freeze-process food for long-term storage. In 2012, I did a brief, two-month stint without a CSA and realized that I no longer knew how to shop for produce at the grocery store! Every time I went grocery shopping, I left feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. When I rejoined my veggie CSA, I also added a fish CSA to my weekly bounty. With the fish CSA, I get a variety of locally caught-this-morning fresh fish which has once again expanded my family’s eating horizons.

    • jeannett

      LETTUCE. Oh so much lettuce!!! Ha!

      A fish CSA sounds AMAZING. Absolutely amazing. I need that in my life. I need to look into it…and if one does not exist start prodding folks about finding someone to start one.

  2. Heather

    This article made me want to know how to find a CSA, so I googled this: Thought I’d share in case any other readers were left wondering as well,

    • Stephanie

      Thanks for sharing this site with us! When I read this post I thought it was really interesting but I had never heard of CSA! I checked out the site and I am thinking of doing this!

  3. Sarah B R

    I love my Omega 8005 juicer. Try about 4 beet greens (stem+leaf) 1 orange 1 cucumber. Super good!

  4. Anne Bogel

    Joining a CSA definitely pushed us out of our comfort zone–in a good way. We learned about so many foods we’d been blind to at the market and the grocery before–like rainbow chard, kohlrabi, and purple carrots. I’m so grateful for the new discoveries we made!

    I gotta say, though, that we haven’t done a CSA in a few years. We have an awesome summer farmer’s market in our neighborhood, and the a la carte plan has worked better for us in the season we’re in. (That would be the season with young kids at home.)

    There are plenty of weeks where prepping and chopping and simmering pounds of leafy greens, and figuring out how to cook the new mystery vegetable, and scrubbing the caked dirt off all the teeny tiny potatoes is just TOO MUCH. On those weeks we go for the easy stuff. 🙂

    I would recommend that everyone do a CSA at least once, though. Such a great experience, for all the reasons you mention.

    • jeannett

      I could probably do the a la carte method now that I’ve been exposed to new/more veggies. Before the CSA, I really didn’t know what to buy, how to use it, or what to do with it…but now, I’m a little less of a veggie virgin. 😉

  5. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    I did a CSA in our old city, but we recently moved and I’m still getting to know the options around these parts. I totally agree about a CSA forcing you out of your comfort zone of cooking–in a good way. But I will say that the only way I could eat beets was in chocolate beet muffins. Is that cheating?
    Anyway…your post is reminding me of how much I enjoyed our weekly box of veg!

  6. Little House

    I think you’ve motivated me to look into a CSA and start eating more veggies. I’m really bad about not eating enough of them. Fruit, not a problem, but getting veggies into my diet is really hard. I’m also very picky about the types of veggies I eat and if I don’t recognize it, I won’t eat it. Maybe I need to expand my horizons!

  7. Sharon

    This came at the perfect time-I was just looking into the CSA in our community. The fun thing is that it is actually run by our dr. and his wife!

  8. Andrea Chavez

    Jeannett, I loved your blog about our CSA! Thank you for writing it and I’m so glad you are happy with our produce and service. You make a great case for participating in community supported agriculture. Part of my job in managing Talley Farms Fresh Harvest is educating consumers about cleaning, storage, selection, and preparing different fruits and vegetables. I’m not a nutritionist, just a mom, a wife and a cook (now an empty-nester!) who has raised two strapping boys, and who values healthy, home-made-from-scratch meals. I’ve been in the produce business over 30 years and I’m use to having fresh fruits and vegetables easily available, no matter where it’s grown. But, since I started this CSA for Talley, I have come to appreciate eating produce that is in season and grown locally. Thanks again for your blog. It’s great to be a mom!

  9. Elizabeth Kane

    Like you, I’m still working through Tsh’s One Bite at a Time. The menu planning is my problem area – we usually make too much of this, or not enough of that. I won’t lie, I’m kinda in love with the 2 week prepared meal plan idea and I can’t wait till I get there. Baby steps…

    Anyway, your post is convincing me to check out our local CSA right now, and from the reviews I’m reading everyone freakin loves it around our area! Maybe I’ll try it out.

  10. Rebecca

    I have been doing a csa since October. I live in Cambodia and I’m lucky that a nearby organic farm started it. I love it for all the same reasons you do and eps how what looks like a total random assortment of veggies get serendipitously transformed into meals each night. And yes, the lettuce! I finally got the system down to wash it all and wrap in paper towels so its ready to be paired with goat cheese straight into my mouth!

  11. Faigie

    There is no such thing as CSA where I live but I have found since I went paleo I have had to eat an enormous amount of vegetables and have discovered the most amazing vegetables that I didn’t know existed growing up. If you also cut out sugar from your diet than vegetables are so much sweeter

  12. Lee Ann

    we get a produce box delivered ever other week. I like that it serves as a starting point for my meal planning. The every other week minimizes our waste and allows us not to be overwhelmed in brassica (broccoli and the like) season. It also lets me do some farm market shopping and gardening on my own. But, I still don’t know what to do with the darn beets!

    • Allison

      I personally prefer beets cold, like a salad (or IN a salad). The easiest way to prepare them and have them on hand is to remove the greens (use those separately, if you like), wash and pat dry, and then wrap each beet individually in foil. Roast in the oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour (or more, if they are very large); test with a sharp knife to see if they have softened.

      Then you can stick them in the fridge, still in foil. The skins will rub right off when you are ready to use them. Chop them up and drizzle them with your favorite dressing, or add them to a salad. A particularly nice combo is greens with orange slices and goat cheese, but we rarely get that far since they are so good plain!

    • Alissa

      I’m just like Lee Ann – every other week is just perfect for us. AND, after several years with very small farms, we are now part of a larger program lets us request substitutes, so our standing order reads: “No Beets – Sub ANYTHING else.” (we have tried and tried methods, but beets are just not going to grace our table.)

  13. Breanne

    We had a CSA for a year and I LOVED it. It was amazing getting all this produce each week and it pushed me to learn many new things. I learned how to cook and love kale. So many greens and so many varieties. We ate well that year. Then we moved across the country and I mostly frequent the farm markets.
    I enjoyed the surprise factor and the knowledge that we were supporting a local farm.
    Maybe I should look back into it. =)

  14. Sharon

    “it just looks like duck poop water to me” that line literally made me laugh out loud!!! We made green smoothies a while back, with spinach. I don’t recall how they tasted, but they do look a bit weird. We are not part of a CSA. I’m afraid a lot of the produce would go to waste and that my husband would say the cost is too much. But, I’ll look into it.

  15. Christina

    I’m glad you are enjoying your CSA! we have been a member of one or the other (had to change for reasons such as farmers moving and so on) for over 10 years. I love eating locally and having such great tasting fresh food. it’s helped me learn to eat seasonally as well, over time as my cooking has adapted I rarely feel the need to buy veggies at the store if they are not in my box. we have bi-weekly so I don’t fall behind with the cooking. at one time we had a working membership and since we had an apartment and no yard, it was good to get out to the farm and get our hands dirty. we juiced for a year or so but while I like to eat veggies (especially when I cook them myself) I really don’t like the juice. although the leftover pulp from carrot beet juice made excellent carrot bread – it was a win-win because we got to reuse the pulp and save energy by not having to grate. speaking of beets, I do not like canned, but home cooked? some of our farm beets have been so worth the effort to cook…mmm we just had some golden beets tossed with white vine vinaigrette with a little dill and mustard. husband, toddler, and I were all fighting over the last bits. now, turnips are not my friend so much, but I’ve learned how to manage them over time. and I like that I still get veggies I’ve never heard of. just had romanesco cauliflower and it was great.

  16. Alexandra

    Your story sounds very similar to mine :). We now love our CSA, i learned to cook with some of the stuff i never touched before, as well as try eating raw what i only ate cooked before (we love raw bok choy and fennel salads) and my kids now get excited when they see parsnips in the store, much to the amusement of people around us. It forces us to eat more veggies (ready or not, the next box is coming) and eliminates excuses for take-out (a stir-fry is almost as fast as take out, and the money is already spent, so i better use up these veggies). It is definitely a plunge, especially for someone who may have picky kids, but that someone just may get surprised what these kids will eat when it comes so fresh. We never tasted strawberries and oranges as good as we get in our box, and we live in So CA. So i definitely recommend joining CSA to anyone interested in eating fresh and healthy.

  17. LiisaR

    We love our CSA!!! We had one in Kansas City, and a few months ago we found a new one in Albuquerque where we recently moved. Spring veggies are the best, especially after a long winter, and we just got our first strawberries that are the best I have had in my life! So, so fun. I’ve learned to copy the list of what is in this week’s box onto my meal planning notepad so I can work the specific veggies (especially unusual ones) into the week’s recipes. Otherwise I tend to lose track… 🙂

    • Alissa

      I put a post-it on the fridge with the list! Even with a meal plan, i don’t always figure out a use for everything and i need the reminder during the week.

  18. Lisa

    I’ve looked into joining a CSA, but so far that’s where it’s remained. We do try to buy from our local farmer’s market as much as possible during the summer. Honestly, I think I’d like to my own garden in the backyard instead of a CSA, but I think that’s just because I’m afraid I’ll have to find a million ways of using kale and Swiss chard. In any case, since one of my triplets tends to eat plants and destroy green tomatoes before they ripen, a garden may still be a long way off.

  19. Jen

    Thanks for the post! I googled local CSAs after I read it. I’m excited about the possibility.

  20. VeroWigo

    I love juicing! I don’t like to use a juicer because I like to keep all the nutrients. Instead, I like to use a blender or better yet a NutriBullet. I love mixing Kale, Pineapple, Spinach, a little stevia, ice and water….yummy. Great site.!

  21. Anni

    Yup, sounds exactly like some of our gradual changes when we started getting a box of produce each week. Sometimes I thought, “What in the world should I do with this,” and found a new favorite.

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